About the author:
Martina got 8 A1s in her Leaving Cert and wants to make the Leaving Cert easier for everyone. She is the founder of 625points.com. The website is created by students who got 625 points using their notes and tips, so that you don't have to reinvent the wheel. It has served hundreds of thousands of students to date.
I remember going to bed that Tuesday night like it was yesterday. After a long stretch of things not going my way, I was sort of ambivalently welling up in anticipation of missing my course by millimetres. However, I told myself: there is no point in stressing out now. If I have to fight for my results with appeals, I better conserve my energy for the next day.
It all went fine. I wasn't even happy, I was relieved to get my results. However, before and since then I have had to face some tough circumstances and here are some lessons I learnt that I want to share with you in advance of you getting your results.
1. Feeling scared is normal
Perhaps stressed is a word you are more used to hearing, but essentially, it is about fear. Our brains are constantly scanning for danger. This has been instrumental in our success as a species. However, in evolutionary terms, there hasn't been enough time to adapt to different types of stressors. Facing the consequences of your Leaving Cert performance isn't a life-or-death situation. It felt like that to me at the time because I never wanted anything more than I wanted to be a doctor.
Since that time, I realised that the black-and-white tunnel vision approach catches up with you eventually. On Wednesday, the least you can do is not judge yourself for being scared. It would also be a good idea to remind yourself that this is just one chunk of the puzzle. Your Leaving Cert results do not make or break you. Yes, they can be useful, but it isn't binary. Trust me on this. Stay in touch with reality and don't create beliefs about these results that will cause you needless pain.
2. What is the worst that can happen?
On that note, since the Leaving Cert isn't a sabre-toothed tiger, what is the worst that can happen? A year spent doing something you weren't expecting? A different college? A different course? I am not suggesting that you lower your standards, but just stay in tune with reality: there is no need to catastrophise.
The difficulty with opening Leaving Cert results is that we have an inherent expectation because we all looked up how many points we need. Our level of happiness is very much determined by our expectations. If you don't expect anything, you will be happy - but few people possess that level of wisdom. Try to remind yourself that going to X college to do Y course is a preference, rather than a life-or-death scenario. Moreover, for all you know, it could be a blessing in disguise.
3. Don't bet your whole sense of self on your exams
This is a tough one. There are a lot of people out there whose self-esteem hinges on achievements, ranks and medals - academic or otherwise. It is an adaptive strategy in the short term. We all want to feel good about ourselves. So if you make a deal with yourself that you will only feel significant and worthwhile if you do really well in exams - you are going to be really committed and motivated.
Sounds good? Well, it is a recipe for disaster. Why? Because the low you will experience if things don't go your way is hell. It is asymmetric: the low that comes with not meeting your own expectations is deeper than the high of achieving.
The point here isn't that the Leaving Cert isn't important. The point is that your should be your own best friend regardless of your grades. If you offer yourself the kind of support your would offer your best friend when they are going through a tough time, you will actually achieve more. In addition, we think of certain things as successes and failures, but in truth, a lot of the time we only find out years later whether something was a blessing or a curse. The sooner you learn that bouncing back from "failure" repeatedly is the road to success, the sooner you will succeed.
Whatever happens, don't take it personally.
4. Being in a good mood will help you make the right decision
If you still don't fully trust people when they say that the Leaving Cert doesn't determine the remainder of your life, think about it from this point of view. If you are really upset, and you will be if you are convinced that this is life-or-death and you fall short of your own expectations - you won't make a good decision as to what to do next. It may mean taking a year to repeat your exams, or perhaps a gap year and repeat one matriculation-related exam, or do another course.
This is important. Now you are making decisions about your future.
For example, settling in to four years of science with a vague hope to transfer to genetics isn't a well thought out action plan. This time may really require you to be at your sharpest and you simply cannot afford to be down in the dumps. Another important point is about your family. Your family and friends are hopefully going to be on the same page as you, but perhaps for the first time in your life, you are in the driver's seat now.
It is you who will have to wake up every morning to the life you are choosing now, so don't try to please other people or succumb to pressure. So you know what to do if you have been following this blog: get your exercise gear on, get some fresh air, speak to your friends and family and most of all be honest with yourself about where you want to take your future.